04 April 2009

What I'm reading now...

In a nod to Nick Hornby and in an effort to get by with a small(ish) blog, I'm just going to list the books I've read recently or am reading now.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a laugh-a-minute.  The Bennet daughters form the Pentagram of Death!  Darcy thinks Jane has been stricken by the Satanic plague!  Lady Catherine de Bourgh is the nation's pre-eminent defender and lady of the Deathly Arts!  This book was pure-dee entertainment and I'm glad I read it.  Though the vomiting and those Most English Bits were a bit much.  I know, right?  Something over the top in a Jane Austen/zombie fanfiction is so highly unexpected!

An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof.  

I've actually read this book a few times before, but it always makes me happy so I'm revisiting it to get in the mood for my upcoming trip to Grenada.  Sure, this book has all of the obligatory recipes for conch and coconut shrimp, as well as the tales of peril on the high seas.  But unlike so many other travelogues written about living and/or working in the Caribbean, this author and her husband really got into the local groove of whatever island they were on--volunteering, going to political rallies, exploring every inch of the islands, befriending locals, joining in the various Carnivals and Jouverts and other festivals, and in general becoming a part of the community everywhere they traveled.  Makes other books, such as one about opening a restaurant on Anguilla, seem backwards and colonial.  

Random House sent me a copy copy of Olive Kitteridge that I finally read this weekend.  I hadn't realized that it's actually a novel of connected short stories where the titular character is only occasionally the protagonist.  This way we get a fuller version of Olive, a woman of a certain age who lives in a small coastal town in Maine--she's complicated and ornery, smart & sharp spoken, weary of fools and wary of change.  Her influence over the town is both distant and far-reaching, as she taught seventh-grade math to most of its denizens.  She's respected but not well liked, but she surprises everyone, including the reader, with her periodic bursts of insight and compassion.  Definitely an interesting read, this book should please both short story readers and those who prefer novel-length fiction.

Last weekend I went down to Memphis to visit my two best friends and over the course of the weekend I got a few books read.  I read Zoe Klein's forthcoming Drawing in the Dust from Pocket Books on the way down there.  It's a story that combines archaeology, religious fundamentalism, romance, and ghost stories in modern day Israel.  Fun, frothy, and easy to read, it made my day of travel much less tedious than if I hadn't read it.  Don't worry--the cover of the advance reading copy is quite pretty, showing a woman's hair blowing in the breeze with the desert blurred and faded in the background.  I'm not sure why it's not been "unveiled" yet, but there you go.  Fans of The Red Tent and People of the Book will probably find much to enjoy in this debut novel.

Of  April and Oliver, the least said, the better.  One night after an uncalculatedly large dose of caffeine, I read this book straight through.  I wanted to be able to fall asleep.  But short of that, I wanted to be able to care for April, one of the most messed-up characters I've read about in a long time.  But the book was more like a trainwreck--in between wanting to slap her, I couldn't stop reading to see what self-destructive thing she would do next.  I'm being admittedly a bit harsh about it, but I suspect that fans of Jodi Picoult's The Pact will find much to recommend it.  We can't all like the same things, alas.  What a dull world that would be!

Scent of Sake by Joyce Lebra.  This well-researched first novel tells the story of Rie, a woman born into a sake-brewing dynasty in early 19th century Japan.  A bright young girl with natural business acumen, Rie bristles under the extreme sexist mores that dictate her behavior.  Saddled with a boorish husband, she discovers ways of quietly undermining his power.  Little does she realize, however, that as time goes by she demands the same sort of sacrifices from her family and employees that she herself was forced to make, effectively becoming just as domineering as the men against whom she was rebelling.  An interesting read.

I did finish reading two wonderful books that I've mentioned earlier in this blog.  One was just as good as I hoped it would be and the other was just as good as I'd remembered it (isn't it nice when that happens?).  Stephen Fry's wonderfully funny book about visiting every state in the US was a delight.  And finishing Without Reservations was like saying goodbye to an old friend.  I hope that one day when I'm on my own again that I'll have the courage to pick up and travel like she did.  


1 comment:

  1. I loved An Embarassment of Mangoes. The recipes were great too.


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